You just ate in a lovely restaurant in the centre of Bordeaux. You paid, left a tip to the friendly waiter and are about to leave.
And you wonder…Should you say “au revoir”? Or is it “salut”? You want to sound friendly, but not too informal.
Oh and you’d love to communicate your desire to come back to try that fondant au chocolat the couple sitting at the next table is eating.
If only you knew how to say “see you soon” in French!
You’ll after reading this article!
Au revoir : the classical goodbye
“Au revoir” is the formal French “goodbye”. You can use with anyone in any situation.
If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that most people pronounce it “anrvoir” instead of “au revoir”.
That’s because the French tend to drop letters and delete words when they speak, something I explain in detail in this article.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend you to start by learning the correct pronunciation and to wait to reach a conversational level before you learn the shortened version.
Otherwise, your “au revoir” is unlikely to be understood.
Salut : the casual goodbye
“Au revoir” is great but it sounds way too formal as a “goodbye” to friends, family members and people you know well.
That’s when “salut” comes in. You may know it as the French equivalent of “hi” but did you know you can also use it to say “bye”?
The only difference with the English “bye” is that French is a more formal language in general, so you’ll rarely hear a seller say “bye” unless you’re a teenager.
A bientôt : see you
If you know you’re going to see someone again soon (or hope you will), you can use one of these expressions:
- A bientôt (see you soon)
- A demain (see you tomorrow)
- A plus tard (see you later)
Or one of these slightly more casual phrases:
- A la prochaine (until next time)
- A tout de suite (see you right away)
- A tout à l’heure (see you later today)
If you spend time in France around the end of the year, you’re likely to hear the overused “à l’année prochaine” joke.
“A l’année prochaine” means “see you next year” and the whole idea of the joke is to confuse someone who forgot the year will soon change.
A plus : the short goodbye
I told you that the French love to shorten everything. Can you guess what’s supposed to come after “à plus”?
Yup, you guessed right. It’s the short version of “à plus tard”.
That’s a “goodbye” you’ll hear a lot in France and that you can use with your friends.
You can also write it “à +” when you’re texting or writing on the internet.
Ciao : the italian goodbye
This italian word is commonly used in French as an equivalent of “salut”. You can use it with friends.
While “ciao” means both “hi” and “bye” in Italian, it’s only used to say “bye” in French.
Adieu : farewell
“Adieu” means “farewell”. You use it when you know you will never see the person again.
You could use it ironically with a friend who made a mistake and is now going to meet his boss to apologize for example.
Or you could use it when breaking up with someone you sincerely hope you’ll never see again.
This is the “goodbye” to use if you enjoyed spending time with someone.
It literally means “it was a pleasure to meet you”.
You can also use the more casual “ravi d’avoir fait ta connaissance” if you’re talking to someone younger or someone you’re now on a “tu” basis with;
This is a tricky goodbye because it doesn’t have any direct English equivalent.
It translates roughly as “enjoy the rest of…”. You use it in formal situations to say “all the best” or “good luck for the future”.
“Bonne chance” is the French for “good luck”. You can use it to wish someone good luck in both formal and informal situations.
“Bon courage” also means “good luck” but it implies that the result depends more on the person’s actions and abilities than on luck.
You use it when someone is about to face difficulties or do something that’s generally considered complicated.
Have a nice…
Just like English, French has lots of goodbyes starting with “good”. You can use them in both formal and informal situations.
- Bonne journée (have a nice day)
- Bonne soirée (have a good evening)
- Bonne nuit (good night)
- Bon voyage (have a good trip)
- Bonnes vacances (have a good vacation)
Life is too short to stick to a single “goodbye”.
Next time you speak French, pick one from this list and use it!
You’ll be surprised by the difference a simple “goodbye” can make.
A bientôt !